Crickets

Scotty Bowman: Success comes from ownership, goaltending, and I’ve always been thinking that you can have a fire-wagon type of hockey but your ability to play good defence has got to surface. The thread that ran through all of my success was undoubtedly ownership’s commitment to win. I’ve been quite close to some of the owners, and the Bronfmans’ passion for the game as owners in Montreal and the Ilitches’ commitment to create a winning team in Detroit contributed greatly to our success.

That’s an old quote I kept from so long ago I can’t find anyone to attribute it to, but it’s always stuck with me as a fascinating look inside the thought process of a winning coach. You need a goalie, you can let your stars wheel but defensive structure have to be there, and for anything to work you need an owner who understands.

From the time of purchase in 2008 through his hiring of Bob Nicholson in 2014, Daryl Katz was learning on the job as an NHL owner. If you’ve read Jim Devellano’s brilliant book HOCKEYTOWN perhaps there are similarities for you between the early Illitch years in Motown and the Katz regime in the first six seasons.

DEVELLANO AND MIKE ILLITCH IN DETROIT

If you don’t know about Devellano with Illitch, a quick thumbnail sketch: Detroit hires Jimmy D in 1982, they run through Nick Polano and Harry Neale before finding Jacques Demers as a suitable coach. They draft Murray Craven, but piss him away. Next year they draft Steve Yzerman, Bob Probert, Petr Klima and things begin to improve. One year, Devellano tells Illitch about the college free agent signing season, Illitch tells him to sign them all. And they did! NHL teams are mad as hell at Detroit, Wings can’t suss out all the talent (they signed Adam Oates but sent him away for three double bubble and a ball of string).

Now, it was easier to make the playoffs back then, but Detroit doesn’t get anywhere really until 1987—year No. 5 of Jimmy D—and then they go deep a couple of times but eventually Bryan Murray comes in, then Scotty Bowman. Detroit wins Stanley 15 years after Devallano arrives.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I don’t think it will be 15 years after Daryl Katz bought the Oilers for this team to win the Stanley Cup (that would be 2022-23 by my math but check it to make sure).

I do think it is fair to say that Daryl Katz has learned some things since 2008 summer, including the fact we don’t hear him say much about hockey ops. We don’t have any idea what is going on behind the scenes, maybe not much has changed except it doesn’t make the media.

We are inside the window (I believe) where the Edmonton Oilers can win the Stanley Cup. Winning the Connor McDavid lottery was clearly the biggest change of fortune for this organization since the Messier trade to Gotham.

Question: How do you feel about the owner and his performance since hiring Bob Nicholson? Has he done the right thing for the hockey team by spending to the cap and (from what we know) not interfering with the business of running the club? Is he showing a (in Bowman’s words) commitment to winning? Finally, what, if anything should the owner do to help push this team higher?

  • 0W-20

    Katz must only do three things well to be considered a successful owner:
    1) never meddle in hockey ops
    2) spend to the cap
    3) never trade McDavid (see: Pocklington, Peter)

  • Devolution

    Darryl Katz doesn’t say much, if anything, about the operation of the team. To the general public at least. I think that his impact on day to day operations is a complete guess to anyone not inside the organization.

  • Frank Rizza

    I was a little worried for awhile especially when we started hearing that he may have overruled his scouts in 2012 but maybe he’s learned from the mistakes and hiring Bob Nicholson looks genius even if the recommendation came from Lowe. Or maybe he’s an egomaniac who micromanages his employees. Who knows? I like the way we never hear from him though. I like the down-low profile and I absolutely Love how he’s investing $2 Billion dollars downtown. If (big if) there’s anything I love more than the Oilers, its Edmonton!

  • fasteddy

    He’s been a remarkable owner, Edm very lucky to have an owner with pockets that deep that also has strong connection to the community. Tax-payer dollars or not, (tell me the spin offs from employment income earned and business taxes don’t more than make up for that), he had the foresight and ability to pull it off.

  • OilCan2

    Katz has done just fine in the hockey world by my estimation. We have an AHL team with the shelves stocked. We have management and coaches with a winning track record and a firm grip on their vision of the future. Hey they are even adding more pissers at Rogers.

  • 2centz

    Daryl Katz has been nothing short of amazing. He has turned the Oilers from being just a hockey club,into a brand. He has more than doubled the value of his team,while not forgetting about the City of Edmonton. He has shown nothing but loyalty to the city, and improving it. How many others from YEG have made millions or billions,and bolted,never looking back,or doing anything for the city? The owner of the Broncos is from Edmonton as well,is he not? When is the last time we’ve heard him taking the risk,by investing in new projects and developments? Daryl has takin it upon himself,to try and not only improve the city’s image,but to also make it a better place to work,and play. Daryl Katz is Bruce Wayne,and Edmonton is his Gotham. I hope when it’s Harrison’s turn to take over,that he shows the same commitment to both the Oilers and the city,that his father has. I think Edmonton should be proud of the work Daryl has done,and to call him one of our own. I may or may not ever meet you,but I love ya just the same,big guy.

  • Dan 1919

    He has the money to run a team, and he’s clearly committed to winning. Can’t ask for much more. You see it in some teams that set internal caps and whatnot that winning is not the main priority, but more of a great if we can type thing.

    Bonus is Katz cares about his city too. The team is lucky to have such a committed owner imo.

  • Spydyr

    Wow, the team makes the playoffs one year and a decade of despair is ignored. Katz is the reason Lowe and McTavish were hired and the reason they both still have jobs. Every bad hiring after time see Eakins, Dallas falls on his doorstep.

    • Roberto

      They also strategically signed Keegan Lowe and brought back Howson (if he ever left) right after the team had success. O well, it is what it is. I’m glad they have the ability to spend to the cap.

    • gr8haluschak

      How is Katz the reason both Mactavish and Lowe were hired, I need a good laugh since Lowe was hired as GM what in 99 and Mactavish was around that same time too

  • Mr. Katz has done a phenomenal job. The combination of Bobby Nick with MacT and Lowe has the off ice operations humming along while Gretz bridges the gap between the on ice world of Chia and Todd and that hockey ops contingent. Its a really cool corporate structure that appears to run as a collection of autonomous strengths.
    Being an Oiler now rocks. Unreal building, world class off ice support facilities and a collection of the most abuse tolerant fans in the history of sports.
    THE TRIBE IS STRONG.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    I would hope that the Oilers with McDavid can get things done more quickly than the Red Wings did. In my opinion, the “Detroit Model,” has become quite the legend – both a product of myth and revisionist history.

    Lowetide’s right – the narrative has generally been, they hired Jimmy D, draft Stevie Y and, 15 years later, they won the Cup. Everyone’s been made to think that the Red Wings were this slowly-gathering storm that snuck up on everyone between 1983 and 1997.

    However, if you grew up in the 1980s, you know that the reality was that the Red Wings mostly stank for much of it. They finished dead last in 1986. In 1986-87, their supposed “breakthrough season,” they finished two games under .500 in what was probably the weakest single-year for a division in the history of the NHL (it was former Blues GM Ron Caron who described the playoff race in the Norris Division of being similar to puppy-love. “Nobody cares about it except for the puppies.”).

    A year later, they were the only above-.500 team in the Norris, but hit the playoffs on a high note. However, in what must have been the most amazing piece of advertising Goose Loonies ever had, Bob Probert, Petr Klima and others had a night out at the Edmonton bar during their conference final against the Oilers (which was never really ever in doubt for the Oil) and that pretty much defined the year.

    In 1988-89, it took a monster 155-point season to get the Wings to a .500 record and another first place (!!!) finish in the Puppy Love Division. The next season, they finished third last and drafted Keith Primeau.

    Does that sound like a steadily building crescendo? No sirreee.

    The overwhelming opinion on the Red Wings, circa summer 1990, was they were on the verge of wasting the talent they had. But they ended up being saved over the next two years by a remarkable crop of rookies, delivered by their crack scouting staff, that started to arrive in the fall of 1990 and took the league by storm. Fedorov, Kozlov, Garpenlov, Lidstrom, Konstantinov, Ysaebaert – those guys turned the Wings around and pretty much set the table for what came in the mid to late 1990s.

    Of course, drafting was only a part of it.

    The Wings’ story of the early 1990s was also about flexing the kind of financial muscle in an uncapped league by a guy who made it big selling mediocre pizza in a ubiquitous chain of walkup stores. By 1997, they had either bought (i.e. signed as FAs) or acquired from cash-strapped teams players like Shanahan, Larionov, Draper, Murphy, Fetisov, Maltby and Vernon.

    When the scouting department delivered Zetterberg and Datsyuk in the late 1990s, they were plugged into a lineup that still included Stevie Y and a generational talent like Lidstrom, as well as talent that was bought and traded for – Brett Hull, Chris Chelios, Luc Robitaille, Brian Rafalski, Dom Hasek.

    So yeah, and this is just one man’s opinion, but the Wings were hardly the grassroots organization that planted seeds in the early 1980s. There were plenty of stumbles and player turnover along the way and I’d argue that it was only because of their scouting department’s remarkable drafts between 1988 and 1990, plus Ilitch’s willingness to throw pizza money at free agents and players-in-trade, that they enjoyed any success at all. The Datsyuk/Zetterberg drafts then obviously created a second act for the organization but now that Detroit’s scouting department has come back to Earth, so has the organization.

    • Druds

      This is brilliant…It made me nauseous whenever local writers and sports guys would always trot out …”the Detroit model” as some sort of miracle pathway to hockey success…Garbage. The path is always the same…luck in drafting and an owner with a big wallet.

      • Spaceman Spiff

        It’s always been my belief that there was no other team, save for maybe the New York Rangers, that benefited more from the lack of a salary cap in the 1990s and early 2000s than the Detroit Red Wings. When money isn’t an object, you went a long way back then. And the Red Wings did, better than anyone else.

  • Kr55

    Owners job is to hire good people and trust them. Katz got step 1 wrong, but step 2 right for quite a few years. Took him a long time, but he may have finally got step 1 right as well now. Some may not be the biggest Chia or McLellan fans, but I think the team is still in good hands with Nicholson. Nicholson will make the changes needed if the team is not progressing like it should and Katz should have 100% trust in him.

  • I’m still of the mind the decade of despair was primarily driven by the very deliberate plan to tank for high draft picks. If you make that assumption alot of the moves made during that time people were slamming as the result of “incompetent management” sort of make sense. And that plan was signed off by Katz. I know for a fact he loves Edmonton and is the farthest thing you could imagine from incompetent. Sometimes narratives are easier to stomach than inconvenient truths. As soon as we landed McDavid the shackles came off. Management hasn’t been perfect but as outsiders we know about 10% of what’s actually going on at any time. I’m cool with where we are now but next year will tell alot. Something tells me it’s not going to be anywhere near as smooth as it was this year and I honestly think we haven’t done enough this summer to account for that.

    • Kr55

      That Oil Change TV show is forever proof that they didn’t think the losing would last more than a couple years.

      Losing is easy, but they had no idea how to make the bleeding stop.

        • Kr55

          What do you mean by that? My point is that Lowe and the gang green lit a TV show about the rebuild because they were confident success was 1-2 years away. Then the whole process and all the failure got too embarrassing and the killed the show before any of the rebuild paid off.